Who will bag the bragging rights?
Which team to put your bets on for the Sydney derby and are the FFA getting it right when dealing with fan violence.PT8M45S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30ltz 620 349 January 10, 2014
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has defended his selection policy before Saturday's Sydney derby at Pirtek Stadium, claiming he picks his best available side for every match.
Popovic has become notorious for dropping players as he sees fit and often without public explanation, though it all appears to be part of a master plan to have the squad fresh for the second half of the season as they juggle finals football and the Asian Champions League.
Speaking at training on Friday, the coach recoiled from any suggestion that he purposely fields weaker teams in an effort to distribute match time throughout his squad.
"[A full squad] is a good headache to have for a coach": Tony Popovic. Photo: Getty Images
“[A full squad] is a good headache to have for a coach," he said. "We take that word 'rotating' a little bit too far I think. Whoever plays for our club is the best XI for that day, that's how we view it with every match. We've never gone into a game with a group of players on the field that we thought couldn't win the game and the same will be tomorrow.”
The Wanderers have an almost full squad to select from after overcoming a tough month of injuries and the only issue Popovic has is deciding on a final team. Shannon Cole is the only player out with injury.
However, with three games in the next eight days because of a match against Melbourne Victory being brought forward, the Wanderers coaching panel could well make some surprise decisions. The Wanderers have crafted a media policy of releasing as little information as possible about selections in an effort to keep fans and opposition coaches guessing until match day.
One player who the Wanderers need to have is Shinji Ono, but with speculation flaring up again that he has signed with J-League second-division side Consadole Sapporo, his future remains under a cloud.
However, Popovic is insistent that no deal has been done and said he was looking for the ex-Japanese international to lift his output. “As it stands, Shinji is our player now, he will be our player until the end of the season and he hasn't signed anywhere,” he said. “We expect more from him leading into the second half of the season now with the ACL. It's exciting times for the club, Shin's certainly very excited to be a part of it and he, like all of us, is looking forward to an ACL campaign.”
Popovic said he was wary of Sydney FC's threat in attack going into the derby, particularly from Serbian striker Ranko Despotovic.
“The players that have come in have done a good job for Sydney FC and they've shown that with some of the goals that Ranko's got up front,” Popovic said. “We'll be aware of that and obviously aware of a team that, on their day, is very dangerous and in a derby anything can happen on the day.”
While the Wanderers are almost unbackable favourites to win the game, Popovic refuses to believe all his side has to do is turn up.
“We expect it to be a real passionate affair and I think the key is to try and just get three points out of that game,” he said. "It should be a special day.”